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Booklamp reaches Kickstarter goal

Boise company Booklamp reached its goal for a kickstarter campaign Dec. 17, paving the way for a launch to its Game of Books program.

The program, which uses Booklamp’s complex algorithm to gather thousands of data points for hundreds of thousands of books, allows people to gain points, badges and other rewards for reading interesting combinations of tomes.

The company had started its Kickstarter campaign, an online capital raising tool, to gather its goal of just more than $100,000 to fund the creation of starter packages for libraries and other participants. The final tally when the campaign closed was about $110,000.

Booklamp founder Aaron Stanton said the company has until August to deliver the starter packages, which it will begin designing just after Christmas.

The company will be looking to recruit people with experience in designing and creating games as well, Stanton said.

The Game of Books is a side project for Booklamp, which has developed relationships with major publishers to provide marketing data using the same system that will power the game.

The Bureau of Land Management is hiring 20 people for a “fuels” crew that would be responsible for reducing plants, timber and other flammable debris from BLM lands.

The jobs are available in Boise, Pocatello, Burley and Coeur d’Alene, according to a news release from the agency.

Fuel crews do fire prevention work for at least a six-month season, but can often be funded for other projects during off seasons.

The job is primarily fire prevention, including clearing out brush to create fire breaks, treating vegetation to become less fire friendly and sometimes participating in controlled burns with firefighters.

The jobs are scheduled to last at least 13 months, but could be extended to up to four years, according to the release.

IBR Staff

Potatoes are Idaho’s top-ranked crop

Potatoes were, once again, the top-ranked crop in Idaho in 2011, according to statistics recently released by the Idaho Department of Agriculture.

The potato created $978 million in value for Idaho in 2011. The tubers were followed closely by alfalfa hay, with $958 million in value created. Other high-value crops were winter and spring wheat, ranking three and four respectively, sugarbeets at number five, and then barley, corn or grain and other hay crops.

Idaho was the number one producer in the nation for potatoes, barley, Austrian winter peas and food-size trout, according to the ISDA. The state ranked third in both cheese and milk production. It was in the top ten for 18 different crops and seven different livestock products.

IBR Staff

State audit collections drop

The Idaho Tax Commission collected $152 million in revenues from audits and collections in its last fiscal year, a drop of almost $30 million from the past year.

The drop reversed a two-year trend of increasing audit revenues. The state has added audit staff to increase revenues.

Randy Tilley, audit and collections administrator, said the decrease isn’t significant. He said state auditors usually close one or two large audit cases, which didn’t happen in the fiscal year ending in June 2012.

“This happened to be one of those years where we didn’t have a large audit case that was resolved,” Tilley said.

The new data on state audits comes from the Idaho Tax Department’s annual report, released Dec. 7.

The state added 70 auditors starting in 2010 as part of the Governor’s Compliance Initiative. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter mentioned the program in his 2011 State of the State speech, saying the extra workers were adding $1 million a month that was previously going uncollected.

Audit and collection revenues rose from $164 million in 2009 to $182 million in 2011 before dropping in the past fiscal year. Audit recoveries accounted for most of the increase. Income taxes paid to the state made up most audit recoveries.

Tilley said the Tax Commission won’t ask lawmakers for more staff this year.

Brad Iverson-Long

Human Bean coffee shops to expand

The Human Bean drive-thru coffee shop is re-opening a location on Chinden Boulevard in Boise on Dec. 21. Owner Alex Furioso, who took over the local franchises of the coffee shops, said he’ll likely expand west in 2013.

“The plan next year is to be in Meridian and the Caldwell/Nampa area,” said Furioso. He owns the rights to franchises in Ada and Canyon counties for The Human Bean, which is based in Medford, Ore. The Chinden location will be the fourth in Boise.

Furioso said the Treasure Valley could support eight to locations. After that, he’d look to expand in other states, including Indiana, where he went to college.

Dutch Bros. Coffee, another drive-thru coffee chain, has also been expanding in the Treasure Valley. A location in Ontario, Ore. opened in November and a Boise location on Orchard Street opened in July.

The four local Human Beans employ 19 people. There are 47 Human Bean locations across the country, including a location in Coeur d’Alene.

Brad Iverson-Long

Grants available for small Idaho exporters

The state Departments of Commerce and Agriculture have grants for companies that export their products internationally. The grants are administered by the Small Business Administration, and Idaho companies that qualify can receive up to $10,000 each.

These grants are available to companies that meet the SBA definition of “small business” and that seek to increase international exports or explore new markets. The goals of the program are to increase the numbers of businesses in Idaho that export, and to increase the exports sent to international markets.

Ground Force Manufacturing, a Post Falls company that makes mining equipment, received a $7,000 grant in 2012 to expand sales to Latin America. Ground Force used the money to participate in Idaho trade missions to Brazil and Mexico, and to explore market opportunities in Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela.

A spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Commerce said 51 applications were approved in the first round of grants. These awards totaled $273,938. Some companies did not spend the full requested amount, so the state ended up paying out only $204,664.

The first market access grant application deadline for 2013 is Jan. 25. The second application deadline is July 9.

Scott Ki

Idaho wealth disparity smaller than U.S. average

Idaho’s wealth gap between the richest one-fifth and the poorest one-fifth of its population is growing, according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,  but Idaho’s gap is smaller than the nation’s as a whole.

Pulling Apart: A State-by-State Analysis of Income Trends reports that from 2008 to 2010, the wealthiest one-fifth of U.S. households had an average income of $164,494, eight times as much as the average income of $20,510 for the poorest one-fifth. In Idaho, the wealthiest one-fifth made 6.4 times as much as the poorest one-fifth: $137,749 vs. $21,564. Idaho’s top-to-bottom ratio was the country’s eighth smallest.

The wealth gap increases across the board when comparing the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans with the poorest one-fifth: The top 5 percent make 13.3 times as much nationwide, and 10.6 times as much in Idaho. Idaho has the eleventh smallest ratio in this category.

The top-to-middle ratio – the ratio of the incomes of the wealthiest one-fifth and middle one-fifth of the population – was 2.7 nationwide, with the middle one-fifth of households making an average of $60,132. Idaho had the 23rd largest gap, with middle earners making an average of $52,345.

Idaho was among five states where the incomes of the poorest one-fifth and the wealthiest one-fifth of wage earners increased at about the same rate from 1998-2000 to 2005-2007. The income of Idaho’s poorest one-fifth increased 4.1 percent, and the income of the wealthiest one-fifth increased 5.9 percent. Nationwide, the poorest one-fifth’s income dropped 5.8 percent while the wealthiest one-fifth’s income increased 8.6 percent.

Idaho was also among 13 states where the incomes of the middle one-fifth and the wealthiest one-fifth increased at about the same rate. The income for Idaho’s middle earners increased 5.4 percent. Nationwide, middle earners’ income increased 1.2 percent.

IBR Staff

Coeur d’Alene Mines to buy silver and gold project in South America

Northern Idaho-based Coeur d’Alene Mining Corporation has agreed to pay $60 million in cash and stock for sole ownership of Mirasol Argentina in South America.

Coeur and Mirasol jointly own a silver and gold project in Argentina called Joaquin. With the acquisition, Coeur will push its total ownership stake in Joaquin from 51 percent to 100 percent.

The project holds an estimated 38.4 million silver ounces and 39,600 gold ounces in measured and indicated resources, according to a company news release. Indicated resources are derived from mineral samples and are used to estimate the amount of metal, grade and other physical characteristics. Measured resources are indicated resources that have undergone further sampling with a higher degree of confidence.

Coeur’s President and CEO Mitchell J. Krebs said in a news release, “We believe Joaquin has substantial exploration upside and the potential to become a significant silver producer for the Company.”

According to an email from a company spokeswoman, “Coeur’s $4.7 million exploration program at Joaquin in 2011 consisted of geologic mapping, sampling, geophysical and geochemical surveys, and the completion of 29,453 feet (8,977 meters) of core drilling. The 2012 exploration budget for Joaquin is $5.8 million.”

One research analyst thought the acquisition was a small, but good move for Coeur based on price.

In November 2006, Coeur and Mirasol embarked on an exploration and joint venture option agreement. Coeur vested its stake in the joint venture at 51 percent in 2010. Coeur expects the full-ownership transaction to close before the end of this year.

The Company also wholly owns projects in Bolivia and Mexico, as well as Alaska and Nevada. In Australia, Coeur has a non-operating interest in a silver-base metal mine.

Scott Ki

New lawmaker’s Facebook profile subject of scrutiny

A newly-minted Idaho lawmaker changed his Internet biography after questions about its accuracy.

When Rep. Mark Patterson was elected in Boise’s District 15, his Facebook site listed him as a University of Southern California student and petroleum engineer. But Patterson never attended USC and isn’t an engineer, though he once worked in Wyoming’s oil fields.

The 60-year-old Republican says the inaccurate details were posted by a former campaign staffer, without his knowledge.

Patterson, whose company makes bike lubrication products, did stick to claims he was a professional cyclist. Though he held no professional license, Patterson said he was paid in the 1990s by another lube company to market products by riding amateur races.

House Majority Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude said the matter shows lawmakers should monitor their online identities.

The Associated Press

Caldwell optometrist gets three years for fraud

An optometrist from southwestern Idaho convicted for defrauding Medicaid and other health care programs has been sentenced to three years in prison.

A federal judge on Dec. 11 also ordered 60-year-old Christopher Card of Caldwell to pay $1 million in restitution and another $100,000 in fines.

Card pleaded guilty in a deal with federal prosecutors in August to defrauding health care programs.

He is the former owner and care provider at Total Vision, P.A.

The plea agreement says that between 1993 and Aug. 31, 2010, Card gave phony diagnoses of glaucoma, colorblindness or other eye diseases so he could bill and be reimbursed by Medicaid, Medicare and other insurance programs for expensive tests and treatments that he never administered.

Federal officials say health care fraud nationally costs taxpayers $78 billion annually.

The Associated Press

Indicted resort suitor set for Jan. 10 mediation

Tamarack Resort’s indicted former suitor will go before a federal judge next month in attempt to mediate his case, but federal prosecutors aren’t budging on an undisclosed plea agreement.

Matthew Hutcheson is scheduled for mediation in U.S. District Court on Jan. 10.

Hutcheson, an independent fiduciary who once offered $40 million for Tamarack, faces charges he raided retirement funds of some $5 million to fix up his home and help finance his now-failed resort acquisition.

In October, Hutcheson’s attorney, Dennis Charney, was allowed to withdraw from the case after differences over strategy.

That’s the same month federal prosecutors say they offered Hutcheson a plea deal.

Just what those terms are isn’t public, but the government isn’t willing to make Hutcheson a better offer as they head toward trial next year.

The Associated Press

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